Prosecutors want life sentence for ex-CIA hacker who leaked secrets to WikiLeaks

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A man convicted of carrying out one of the most damaging data breaches in the CIA’s history — the public disclosure of secret hacking tools — is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday afternoon in federal court in New York.

Prosecutors are asking for a life term for former CIA officer Joshua Adam Schulte, who was convicted of the so-called Vault 7 leak — and also of possessing child sexual abuse images. 

Schulte, who left the CIA in 2016, “stands convicted of some of the most heinous, brazen violations of the Espionage Act in American history,” prosecutors said in their sentencing memo to the judge, adding that he stole “an arsenal of extremely sensitive intelligence-gathering cyber-tools” from the CIA and handed it to WikiLeaks, “which in turn publicized it to America’s adversaries” in 2017.

The defense is asking for nine years, saying that Schulte has been “subjected to continuous torture” during his six-year confinement since his arrest, and calling him “a bright, kind young man” whose crimes “represent aberrant behavior in an otherwise law-abiding life.”

Image: Joshua Adam Schulte
Joshua Adam Schultevia LinkedIn

In a letter to the court, Deputy CIA Director David Cohen called the leak “one of the largest unauthorized disclosures of classified information in the history of the United States” and said it caused “exceptionally grave harm to U.S. national security.”

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He said the leak “placed directly at risk CIA personnel, programs, and assets.”

Evidence at the trial showed Schulte worked for an elite CIA hacking unit, became disgruntled at work and may have leaked the material in a spiteful attempt to lash back at his colleagues.

After being caught, prosecutors say, Schulte declared what he called “my information war,” and “attempted to disclose even more classified information from jail in flagrant defiance of numerous warnings and a court order.”

Before and after his arrest, prosecutors say, “Schulte fed an abhorrent personal fixation through his collection and viewing of an enormous trove of child sexual abuse materials.”

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